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Jun 25, 2008 07:05 PM

ISO Gibraltar coffee substitute in Kitsilano: the quest begins...

Some of you coffee hounds out there may recall I asked about a Gibraltar substitute in Vancouver a few weeks back:

I finally worked up the courage to approach a couple of local baristas and ended up trying back to back capuccinos at Elsyian and 49th Parallel on the way home from the office today. I see a late night in my immediate future but I digress...

Neither of these folks had heard of the Gibraltar and I don't think I described it very well (should have taken notes from the earlier thread with me) but it's early days yet in the quest and I can always revisit when I refine my parameters.

The first drink at Elysian was served in a 6 oz ceramic receptacle (no glass tumblers here) and I drank it inhouse. Bethany was very helpful and I thought did a nice job with my request. I found the drink had the appropriate strength but was maybe a bit light on the milk for the quest. The coffee itself was very tasty, albeit with a more bitter aftertaste than I like. I will go back for further research.

Next I hit 49th P hoping there wouldn't be a lineup to witness my fumblings but alas there is always an audience in this popular java outlet. So I dove in anyway and ended up getting my capuccino to go in what turned out to be an 8 oz cup. So guess what? This one was a bit too milky. I am starting to sound like that porridgy fairy tale chick... anyway, despite the over milkage, this drink was probably closer to my quest but I think I would order it double next time. And I must say I loooovvvve the Epic roast here. So ridonkulously smooth and almost syrupy, weirdly like a great hot chocolate, with no aftertaste.

Other quest targets ID'd:



Take 5

I'm open to suggestions so please let me know of your favourite coffee placea. The only criteria (for now) is that they have to be walkable from Broadway and Granville, and they have to be either independent or at most local chainlets.

Thanks from a coffee clod seeking caffeinated enlightenment.

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  1. grayelf- last time I was there, Delaney's on Denman served a double espresso in the same 6-oz rocks glass- beveled tumbler I would say- that I have at home and that I sometimes use for a cappuccino. IMO it is actually too large for a proper espresso but theirs are on the long side- so maybe they can make you a sort of cappo/flat white/long "macchiato" in that glass? Worth a shot.

    20 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Thanks, John -- I will add Delaney's to the expanded list for when I am in the West End. I definitely need milk -- a double espresso on its own would have me doing the Apu-hummingbird-in-the-Quickie-mart routine for sure :-). The question is, how much milk, and only more research will answer it...

      1. re: grayelf

        My Googling indicates that it is a 25ml shot of espresso topped up with milk in a 5.6oz glass (a Gibraltar tumbler) executed latte-style (maybe peter.v or one of our other barrista friends can chime in here). From the pictures I have seen online, they look more like lattes than macchiatos.

        I guess if you bring your own tumbler, you can get a custom latte at any decent espresso joint. Just as John has already mentioned - you can buy a tumbler (which is a standard size) at a restaurant supply house in town.

        1. re: fmed

          Now it never would have occurred to me to actually buy my own little tumbler and bring it with -- great idea! I can then be one of those annoying people depicted in that old Steve Martin movie but at least I'll be an environmentally conscious PITA :-). And thanks fmed for the very exact amounts.

          Anyone know a resto supply place that would sell me just one or two such glasses?

          PS No more sampling coffee after work for me... research will have to continue in the a.m.

          1. re: grayelf

            I had a Gibraltar at Prado this morning ;) - picture below. At Prado, they give you a glass tumbler full of water whenever you get a "traditional" espresso drink. It looks like a 6 oz-er. Ask for one of those wherever you are.

            >> Anyone know a resto supply place that would sell me just one or two such glasses?

            You may have to commit to a package of six or something like that. I'm just guessing, of course. Dunlevy on W7th is probably closest to you. I usually go to Russell on Clark at Venables for various restaurant grade gear.

            1. re: fmed

              BTW...I can see why you like this drink. It's an excellent ratio of milk to espresso. It tastes like a hot chocolate (especially when using 49th's Epic Espresso Blend like at Prado).

          2. re: fmed

            You got it fmed. That would be my definition of the gibraltar too.

            Grayelf, I know Elysian tends to have an "airier" milk than most places in their cappuccino, hence you might find it light on the milk. If you request the milk more along the lines of a latte but in a cappuccino cup (their 6oz ACF cup), it might work for you.

            I know baristas at Wicked tend to do a more latte style milk for the cappuccinos, especially if you catch Arthur (he's easy to identify... piercings/tattoos). But regardless of the barista, the drink should be good. Ask for a traditional cappuccino. Unfortunately no rocks glasses to be had their though.

            I'm not surprised the baristas didn't know about the drink. It very much is a regional specialty of the Bay Area with a few offerings in NYC due to former SF baristas setting up shop out there. If you were talking to the counter staff (at 49th, this could be an issue where the barista and till are so far separated) they might not even be "coffee people", although they likely are if they're at one of these shops.

            I'll experiment with some rocks glasses this weekend when I'm working bar, so long as I can get permission to use them. It's too bad that I wasn't working bar in Vancouver, I would try to work out the drink with you (maybe if I'm back in the fall at a cafe, we can try if you haven't found a spot by then).

            What cafe again did you encounter the gibraltar at? You may in fact be looking for something more along the lines of a cortado... which in Vancouver is non-existent. Try the piccolo latte at 49th instead. The right size cup for a cortado (~4oz or so)... a longer sort of macchiato, is something I've rarely seen in Vancouver. We seem to have an obsession with either super short macchiatos (2-3oz) or the traditional cappuccinos.

            1. re: peter.v

              It was at the Blue Bottle on Linden in SF. I understand Ritual also does one, but I didn't know about it when we were there, or I would have done a comparison. I didn't necessarily expect servers here to know about it, which was why I tried to engage them when the stores weren't busy. At Elysian I had both staff helping me out as the till guy deferred to the barista -- they were great. A bit less successful in terms of dialogue at 49th as the two staffs remained "separate" as you noted. I think I will try a piccollo latte on the way to work today. In the interest of science.

              I did come across a reference to cortado, I think on Chowhound and maybe by you :-) but I gathered it wasn't something really available here. I'm convinced the six oz range is the right one.

              Looking forward to hearing about your experiments if you can swing it!

              PS 2 -- I sure wish the edit function worked better here -- I noticed that I had misspelled cappuccino not once but twice and was sure I had corrected it on the second pass but I see it's still wrong in the OP. Grr argh.

              1. re: grayelf

                grayelf- are you familiar with there's a western canada forum that might be of some help to you, too.

                1. re: grayelf

                  Good on you for engaging the barista in an off-peak time (too many people don't understand that when we're super busy it might be tough to provide proper attention to a special order).

                  If you had the BB gibraltar, I'm pretty sure you're right about the 6oz.

                  Cortados seem to have as variable a definition as a cappuccino or any other contentious coffee beverage. Their Iberian/Latin American origins just don't get them much attention in our country.

         does have a Western Canada forum where some others might offer suggestions. John and I are pretty active over there too (I lurk more now though).

                  Again, best of luck in your search! It's great to see more people looking for small drinks! And, cappuccino is a spelling error I would probably overlook. The double c gets me everytime.

                  1. re: peter.v

                    Mark Prince ("CoffeeGeek" himself), Alistair Durie ("alistair", Elysian) , and Barrett Jones ("barrett", 49th), and more rarely Vince Piccollo ("fine_acidity", 49th) also hang at Urban Diner, greyelf.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Thanks everyone for supporting my attempt to become addicted :-).

                      I'm thinking I will get some tumblers (six would be fine) and lug one with me, as Prado is sadly outside my usual perambulations. I will call Dunlevy and Russell.

                      I have been eavesdropping on the UD coffee discussions -- way too intimidating for me -- and I read some stuff from coffeegeek too IIRC.

                      I think part of the reason I never got into the current coffee craze was the outsize nature of so many of the beverages. It seems to be the default these days in a number of F&B arenas -- supersizing, ack.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Okay, really obsessing now: no luck at Dunlevy, Russsell has them (by Libbey and actually called Gibraltars) but only in the 7 oz size -- the 5.5 oz is listed but not stocked. They will cost me about $3.15 plus tax (unless I want to buy 36) but I think that is just fine.

                        I also called Amy at Prado and it turns out she bought the wee tumblers that fmed pictured at a dollar store -- sadly she only has five left as the others have all been broken.

                        I'm going to check out a couple of dollar stores per Amy's suggestion before I commit to the Russell Foods option, only because they aren't open on the weekend.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          what about IKEA? I just assembled this with a 6-oz tumbler from Ikea. Pics are under the portafilter, the espresso shot, and the finished product from top and side- did I just make a Gibraltar?

                            1. re: fmed

                              Me too. John, you rock.

                              So I went on the Ikea site and they have similar glasses, suitable for hot bevvies, called Pokal. They are 15 centilitres, which according to my expert (read on line assisted) conversion is just over 5 US ounces. At $4.99/6, they are a bargoon, except that you have to go to Ikea to get them :-).

                              A bit more research today, as I just happened to be buying a Dutch oven at Motiv which is next door to... 49th Parallel! Their piccollo latte comes in at 4 oz which seemed a bit dinky to me. Also the till guy said that they prep the milk exactly the same for the lattes and the caps, so I ended up going with the cap again (6 oz), this time in a ceramic cup. Oddly I think I liked the one yesterday better although it was in an 8 oz paper cup -- today's seemed slightly bitter (different barista? more milk? who knows).

                              Will try to hit Wicked on the w'end... the quest continues... thanks for coming along for the persnicketyness.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                These more successful places like 49th do have more variability in their drinks. That's why I like smaller places like Prado where I know that I have a good chance of getting Amy and her other top barristas. Don't get me wrong, I do like 49th - but these days, I go for their Clover single cups instead of their espressos.

                                1. re: fmed

                                  I was wondering about the Clover yesterday as I was drinking my little cap. Will have to try one...

                                  Thought of Pier One as a possible source for the Gibraltar-esque tumbler. Checking in this weekend!

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Maybe Motiv's sister store, Ming Wo would have some Gibraltars... or, if not, an Arcoroc version (their line similar to the Libbey one is called Granity). I've found Ming Wo's selection for good quality inexpensive glassware (I'm guessing $5 per glass for the real deal) to be second to none. Plus, there are two within walking distance from Granville @ Broadway.

                                    1. re: peter.v

                                      To further reveal the sad reality of my new obsession, I spent the forenoon yesterday trawling Fourth Ave for suitable glasses -- Ming Wo, Motiv, Paboom, several dollar stores, anything that looked like it might have glass receptacles. This was in lieu of working. Will see if I can track down the Arcoroc (maybe London Drugs, they seem to have everything or even the Bay), thanks Peter.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Darn. I can empathize with the obsession though.